Constance Keene Collection
The distinguished American pianist and teacher Constance Keene was born in
Brooklyn, New York on February 9, 1921. Her early piano studies were with
Kathryn Makin. At the age of 13, three years after her formal recital debut, she
began working with Abram Chasins (1903-1987), the well-known pianist, composer
and broadcaster, whose influence on the young pianist was decisive. Through
Chasins's influence, Constance played privately for, and received encouragement
from, such eminent figures of the day as Leopold Godowsky and Josef Hofmann. In
1943 she was named winner of the Naumberg Competition, appearing in her Town
Hall debut recital later that
Chasins and Keene were married in 1949 and made a number of acclaimed
recordings of duo-piano repertoire as well as performing together with the
Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky. On her own, Ms. Keene appeared as
concerto soloist with major orchestras in the US and Europe, including the
Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, the Hallé
Orchestra of Manchester, and the Berlin Philharmonic.
In 1946, Constance Keene replaced the indisposed Vladimir Horowitz at a
recital before an audience of 4000 in Springfield, MA. She became the only woman
pianist to have substituted for Horowitz at any of his frequent cancellations.
In addition to her concert activity during the 1940s, Ms. Keene embarked on a
second career as a teacher. Among her private pupils at the time were the two
older children of Artur Rubinstein. In 1963, shortly after Ms. Keene's recording
of the complete Rachmaninoff Preludes was released, Rubinstein warmly praised
her interpretations: "I cannot imagine anybody, including Rachmaninoff himself,
playing [the Preludes] as beautifully."
In 1969 Constance Keene joined the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music,
eventually serving as chair of the school's piano department and becoming one of
New York's most sought-after teachers. In 1997 she was named to the school's
board of trustees, and in 2004 the MSM awarded her an honorary Doctor of Musical
Arts degree. Ms. Keene gave master classes on many occasions in Europe, Asia and
South Africa. In addition, she was in frequent demand as a judge for piano
competitions, serving on the juries of the Cliburn and Naumberg competitions,
Constance Keene was a fairly prolific recording artist whose first solo discs
appeared on the Mercury label in the early 1950s. A number of compact discs on
the Protone and Newport labels reflect the breadth of her repertoire, containing
not only familiar works of Bach, Chopin, Mendelssohn and Rachmaninoff, but also
rarely-played sonatas by Dussek, Hummel, Weber, and MacDowell.
Constance Keene died in New York on December 24, 2005 and was survived by her
second husband, the attorney Milton Kean.
The Constance Keene Collection in IPAM contains a number of scrapbooks
documenting her career as both performer and teacher. IPAM also holds Ms.
Keene's personal score collection containing many comments and notations.
10 am to 3 pm
Monday through Thursday
9 am to 5 pm
Monday through Friday
Donald Manildi, Curator
International Piano Archives at Maryland
Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library
8115 Alumni Dr.
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742 USA